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Atkins is top diet, study finds

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Atkins is top diet, study finds

Atkins is top diet, study finds

A team of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine announced Tuesday that women following the Atkins regime lost the most weight in the longest and largest comparison of four popular diets to date.

Dr. Randall Stafford, associate professor of medicine at Stanford, said many of the researchers were surprised to see that patients on the Atkins diet not only lost more weight, but also experienced increased health benefits.

"Contrary to the skepticism that many physicians, including myself, had about the low carbohydrate diet ... this study shows that a prudent approach to a low-carb diet has significant benefits in health and weight loss," Stafford said, noting that the Atkins followers achieved better cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Led by Dr. Christopher Gardner, assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, the study of 300 overweight Bay Area women measured how many pounds each patient was able to shed over a one-year period on one of four diets and monitored the women's overall health.

Patients were divided into groups that were assigned to the low-carb and high protein Atkins diet, the Zone diet focused on a 40:30:30 ratio of carbs to protein to fat, the LEARN diet that follows the guidelines set by the national food pyramid or the high-carb, low-fat Ornish diet.

The participants went to weekly lessons for the study's first two months, then were left on their own to follow the diet plans. Researchers monitored their progress with regular measurements and surprise phone checks.

Stafford said researchers called patients to ask about what they had recently eaten "when they weren't necessarily expecting it."

"People struggled with all four diets, but followed them well enough so we could differentiate between the diets," said Dr. Abby King, Stanford professor of health research, policy and medicine.

King said that the Atkins diet might have been more successful because it offered a single, clear message to avoid simple carbohydrates, such as white bread and sugar.

While all four diets advise people to avoid simple carbs, that message can get diluted by other instructions, Stafford said. He also noted that 88 percent of people following the Atkins diet stayed in the study, while between 76 and 78 percent of those following the other three diets remained in the program to the end.

Dr. Michael Nierenberg, an adjunct clinical professor of medicine at Stanford not involved in the study, said earlier research has shown that weight loss depends "on how well you stayed on your diet, not which diet you were on."

Nierenberg said the study also does not examine the long-term weight loss and health benefits to its participants.

"That's extremely important because one of the problems with any diet is that people can't stay on them," he said. Focusing on portion control can be more effective than following a diet, he said.

In fact, King noted that patients lost the most weight six months into the diet.

"By 12 months, all four groups were regaining their weight," she said.

Still, King said the public could learn from the central message to avoid refined carbohydrates.

"It's not just low versus high carbohydrates. It's what you're choosing specifically to eat in those categories," she said.

Nutritionist Maureen Sullivan, founder of the Bay Area chain Lite for Life, said that simple carbohydrates make blood sugar levels fluctuate, which induces cravings.

"By removing those (simple carbs), people can make their blood sugar level stable. Then they are able to stay on a diet," she said.

The study's results will be published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Post Wed 07 Mar, 2007 9:46 am 
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